Website Redesigns & The Effects on SEO
Every brand should strive for a sleek, efficiently designed website that appeals to both users and search engines. Sure, there are many other website redesign considerations to be made, but nearly all of them fall into the buckets of UX and SEO.
So how can you redesign a website without losing SEO value? Unfortunately it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Much of it depends on what specific elements you’re redesigning, and how well the site was performing beforehand.
For those who are embarking on a redesign project for the first time, it’s important to understand the process before you get too deep. Being organized is key to churning out a new site in less time and in better quality.
How Often Should You Redesign Your Website?
A review of website performance should be done on a regular basis to ensure that the site is geared for growth. This should happen at a scheduled cadence, like once per quarter, or when an issue presents itself—sudden drops in rankings or traffic.
There are different levels of redesigning a website. A sitewide redesign might be necessary every few years, mostly to keep up with the latest design trends, while smaller design changes can be implemented on a more frequent basis to address errors and minor performance hiccups.
These smaller scale redesigns can also be a way of infusing life into older content. According to a study by Backlinko, updating old blog posts with new design elements like images, videos, and better optimized content can increase traffic by over 100%.
Small design improvements like these don’t even require a designer. You can optimize blog posts right from the comfort of your CMS, especially if you’re using an intuitive platform like WordPress.
Lack of search visibility is a key reason why many site owners seek a redesign, but it could also stem from a lack of conversions. Mobile-friendliness can strengthen a website in both of these areas. It’s the new standard that every designer strives for as brands are fighting tooth and nail to make their sites as smartphone-friendly as possible.
As far as determining how often to redesign your website, there’s no steadfast rule. Make small adjustments whenever your site is struggling. If the issues are still not resolved, consider doing a more comprehensive redesign.
Benefits of a Website Redesign
Revamping your website has a slew of benefits. It gives you a fresh layout which can help lower page speeds and improve your overall brand identity.
It can make your site more responsive across different browsers and screen sizes, especially on mobile and tablet devices. Plus, there’s the potential for an SEO boost.
Ultimately, your website redesign should make it easier for customers to find you and convert.
How to Redesign a Website
Any redesign project begins with determining what specifically needs to be redesigned. This is where a site audit comes in handy.
Perform a Website Audit
Website audits examine a number of critical factors to help you understand your overall site health. Everything ranging from page speed to keyword rankings, content formatting to broken links, time on page to conversion data and much more.
Planning a website redesign is much easier when you can clearly lay out the areas needing improvement. The audit process will help you create a more cohesive redesign blueprint, helping you prioritize the biggest areas of struggle.
Not only do audits show you what your site is doing wrong, they also have a competitive analysis component showing you what your competition does well.
Let’s say that your site lacks conversion opportunities, no banners or sign-up buttons. Meanwhile, your top competitor has a sidebar on every page that includes a call to action button leading to a sign-up form. This is a UX component that could help you collect more leads and climb the rankings. You’ll want to make a note of this in your audit sheet and send it over to your designer.
Picking apart your competitors will give you the inspiration necessary to improve your website and future proof it.
By auditing your site, you will also ensure that you aren’t taking a step backwards in your redesign efforts. Each new design element will have a purpose based on the groundwork laid out in your audit.
What is a Design Audit?
A design audit can be a subsection of your broader website audit that specifically looks at web design and branding elements (images, logos, etc.) to determine UX and overall efficiency.
This type of audit goes well beyond the website itself. Design audits can help site owners determine whether it’s time for a rebrand across all properties, both digital and non-digital (including business cards, t-shirts, brochures). This analysis will look at background and header images as well as the usage of fonts, color schemes, and the brand’s logo.
One of the main metrics used along the course of a design audit is brand consistency. Is the brand using the same logo across all pages and social properties? Is the color scheme consistent?
We can gather insights about user behavior by looking at our analytics software, but heat mapping allows us to visualize what people are doing on our website.
Software tools like Crazy Egg or Hotjar allow site owners to see users’ mouse patterns as they navigate their website. You can see whether visitors are scrolling and clicking on the right elements on any page, allowing you to determine if and where design changes are needed.
Heat Mapping is especially useful for improving conversion rates. It will uncover the deficiencies of your web pages by showing you the exact actions people are taking, or not taking. You can easily track your user’s mouse clicks, form interactions, and scroll patterns to understand what elements need the most improvement.
Consult with a Designer Who Understands Your Vision
When it comes to implementing your design vision, it’s important to be able to articulate everything correctly with your designer.
It’s one thing to present your audit findings, but your designer needs to avoid adding or taking away any elements that might hurt your site. Be specific about what you want from your designer and have them perform mockups using a software like Figma.
Website Redesign Checklist
Once your audit process concludes, the website redesign planning stage begins. This is where you will parse out all of the audit findings, create to-do lists and rank items in order of importance.
The website redesign process becomes much more straightforward when you organize everything into the following buckets.
Here is a website redesign project plan you can follow.
Content includes everything from landing pages to blog posts, so it’s important to take stock of your entire content portfolio before the redesign begins. This will ensure that you’re not losing any vital SEO juice.
Determine which pieces of content are ranking the highest and generating the most traffic? This is the content you don’t want to touch.
Alternatively, what content is struggling the most or underperforming? This is the content that will benefit most from your redesign efforts.
This is also a good opportunity to consolidate duplicate content. Duplicate content happens when you have multiple pages that are overly similar or are competing for the same keywords. Google will punish duplicate content by ranking one piece over the other, or worse, refusing to rank either piece.
Once you’ve taken inventory of your current content, you should also consider what types of content you’re planning in the future. For example, a site that’s transitioning from having only written content to having video content will need to plan their design process for this allowance. Video content demands different spatial parameters than text (especially on mobile devices) and it can have some negative speed ramifications if not properly optimized.
When it comes to site structure, exercise caution when changing URLs. Any alteration can sacrifice valuable SEO rankings.
Try to make other site structure improvements if possible. For example, adding better navigation can lower click depth to key pages. You can make it easier for mobile users to reach different parts of your website by adding a sticky menu with links to the pages that matter most.
Adding internal linking is another way to encourage click throughs to the correct pages on your site. You can cluster blog content around certain categories, then design those category pages to help users reach the specific blog posts.
Site structure comes down to the simple question of ‘how can I make things easier to find without breaking my SEO?’
If you can navigate this in a delicate fashion, you’ll be satisfied with the results.
Page speed is a non-negotiable these days. Almost 70% of consumers testify that slow websites influence their buying decisions, making them much more likely to bounce off the site and take their business elsewhere.
Large, highly detailed images are easy on the eye but slow on the bandwidth. “Image optimization” used to involve shrinking and distorting the images to the point of pixelation. Thankfully, modern image optimization software makes image files smaller without sacrificing quality.
So you can have 4k eye candy without diminishing load times.
Experienced designers know how to use only the code they need and nothing excessive. Your redesign should involve the removal of bloated or unnecessary code in favor of a more optimized front end performance.
Where you choose to host your website can make a big difference in load times. If your time to first byte (TTFT) is slower than 200 milliseconds (ms), it could be time to migrate web hosts.
Even if your site runs great on desktop devices, a slow mobile page speed will leave you doomed. Google uses mobile first indexing when determining page rankings, so a site that lacks a mobile responsive design will have problems ranking.
Mobile users typically have shorter attention spans and are quick to exit sites if they can’t find what they want. A mobile redesign should rid all pages of extraneous assets that will distract users and inhibit their ability to scroll.
The redesign process can focus on both mobile and desktop devices, but understand that mobile design has the biggest SEO and UX ramifications moving forward.
Website Redesign Audit
Once the redesign is complete, it’s time to perform one last audit to see that your entire website redesign task list was addressed.
Your website redesign project plan doesn’t end with the final creative design touches. You’ll have to continually monitor your site’s performance and rankings to ensure that there is no serious drop off or deficiency.
If the web design process feels overwhelming, you’re not alone. At Blue Laser Digital, we’ve worked with many types of brands who needed a redesign but didn’t know how to approach it.
With this website redesign guide, we hope to inspire more website owners to take the leap and watch their site transform for the good. An updated website will not only improve your SEO, it will solidify your brand as a more authoritative site in your space.